Had quit 6 months back: Leela Samson
Noted danseuse and former chairperson of the Central Board for Film Certification (CBFC), Leela Samson, was in the news recently, when the release of the film ‘MSG’ was embroiled in controversy which subsequently led to her resignation.
CBFC panel should comprise learned men free from political influences
Noted danseuse and former chairperson of the Central Board for Film Certification (CBFC), Leela Samson, was in the news recently, when the release of the film ‘MSG’ was embroiled in controversy which subsequently led to her resignation. Leela, who claims to be Vidyaranya High School founder Shanta Rameshwar Rao’s protégé, was in the city to take part in the Hyderabad Literary Festival. In an interview with Aditya Parankusam, Leela Samson clarifies her stand on the controversy
Censorship on ‘MSG’ landed you in a controversy and subsequently you resigned. Would you like to clarify on your stand?
The truth is I haven’t even watched the movie so far. It is a popular misconception that the chairperson and other members of the CBFC will watch and certify the films. But that is not the case. Our rules stipulate that a team of five or seven, with more women members than men and a member from the Dalit community should be in the team, which certifies the movie. It was no different for ‘MSG’.
The first team hasn’t certified the film citing a clause in the rules. Another team was constituted which also cited the same clause. When the issue was brought to my notice, I referred it to the tribunal, as per the procedure, which ultimately cleared the film.
Are the panels that denied certification or the tribunal that cleared the film formed by you?
The chairperson of the CBFC doesn’t set up the panel of members or the tribunal. The members are nominated by the party in power and the chairperson’s job is to formulate policies. We watch films only when a controversy arises.
The film ‘PK’ also landed in a controversy over its portrayal of godmen and fringe groups asked for its withdrawal from theatres. Any comments?
I have to admit that I haven’t watched this film either. The panel cleared the movie and that’s it. The controversy started with the film poster and the CBFC has nothing to do with the film poster. There is a separate board for that.
Of late, several filmmakers and certain groups are critical of the board for reasons pertaining to the content in the films that were given certifications and the others that were censored. As a former chairperson what do you have to say about that?
We certify films and do not censor them. But filmmakers and people have called us the censor board and the name has stuck on. There was a film, ‘Kaum De Heere’, which was about the assassination of Indira Gandhi. The film hailed them as heroes. We certified the film and it was released without much hue and cry. On the other hand, a young filmmaker made a film, ‘En Dino Muzzafarnagar’, which was about riots in Uttar Pradesh. The panel didn’t pass the film. Neither did the tribunal. Sadly, the filmmaker passed away and his wife filed a case in High Court seeking the release of the film so as to clear off her husband’s debts.
I submitted a report to the then Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar, recommending that the panel should comprise learned men free from political influences. The board will gain a sense of credibility only when this is done.
Your resignation has created quite a flutter. Any explanations?
I tendered my resignation six months ago, but was asked to continue. It was disheartening the way things happened at the board, the influences and others. I had no other way but to quit.